Education and Identity Term Paper

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Education and Identity

In his theory of identity formation, Chickering maintains that the key steps in forming one's identity take place during the four years one typically spends in college. Of course, these delineations should be taken as guidelines rather than universal truths. This is because students tend to move through the seven vectors at different rates according to their personal situations. In what follows, I hope to show the ways in which my own college life both conforms to and differs from the theories of Chickering. Experiencing true freedom and independence for the first time was overwhelming for me in a way, as it is for so many other freshman college students. By putting more concentration on my social activities outside of school rather than my studies, I was learning how to develop certain aspects of my confidence and emotional life, but I was neglecting one of the more vital parts of the first vector - my intellect. It was Kim, my future fiancee, who would help me progress from mere identity establishment to the next vector - that of developing some purpose in my life.

Education and Identity

In his theory of identity formation, Chickering maintains that the key steps in forming one's identity take place during the four years one typically spends in college. Chickering's theory was later returned to in the work of Reisser, who would identify seven main vectors in college students' development:

1. Developing Confidence: intellectual, physical/manual, and interpersonal

2. Managing Emotions: recognizing, accepting, appropriately expressing and controlling emotion

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3. Moving Through Autonomy Toward Interdependence: increasing emotional independence, self-direction, and problem-solving abilities, as well as recognizing and accepting interdependence

4. Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships: developing capacity for healthy intimate relationships that contribute to sense of self, while accepting and appreciating differences

5. Establishing Identity: based on feedback from significant others, developing comfort with self (physically and emotionally), one's lifestyle, gender, sexuality and cultural heritage

TOPIC: Term Paper on Education and Identity Assignment

6. Developing Purpose: developing clear vocational goals and committing to personal interests and activities

7. Developing Integrity: moving from rigid, moralistic thinking to a more humanized personalized value system; acknowledging and accepting the beliefs of others (Chickering, 1969; Reisser, 1995; Straub and Roberts, 1986).

Chickering and Reisser maintain that students tend to move through the first four vectors throughout the course of their first two years in college. The fourth vector tends to evolve during the second and third years of study. The last of the vectors are typically traversed during the final two years of college.

Of course, these delineations should be taken as guidelines rather than universal truths. This is because students tend to move through the seven vectors at different rates according to their personal situations. In what follows, I hope to show the ways in which my own college life both conforms to and differs from the theories of Chickering.

One of the vectors I struggled with throughout my college career the most was the third. Experiencing true freedom and independence for the first time was overwhelming for me in a way, as it is for so many other freshman college students. This is the first time in my life that I was away from home for a sustained amount of time with little or no supervision. I could do what I wanted and when I wanted to do it and no one was there to tell me I could not. Like many freshmen, I got caught up in the party scene as well as extracurricular activities such as sports. If there was a party, then I was there. Intramurals? Sign me up! Looking back, I do not know how I functioned my first year, let alone sustained a decent grade point average. I was aware that conventional wisdom equates an a in high school to a B. In college, but with my lack of attention to studying I should not have managed to get a B- average. For the entire first year of my college experience I stayed up until 3am and got up for my 8am class Monday through Friday. Needless to say, I was on the path to burning myself out.

Socializing with one's peers is key for developing confidence and moving through autonomy toward interdependence. It helps one learn how to develop tolerance towards others, while improving the quality of relationships we have with other people (Chickering 1969, p. 94). At the same time, an excessive amount of socializing can often prevent us from making the progress we need to make in order to get through college and become healthy, functioning adults.

By putting more concentration on my social activities outside of school rather than my studies, I was learning how to develop certain aspects of my confidence and emotional life, but I was neglecting one of the more vital parts of the first vector - my intellect. What I was unable to see at the time was the fact that college life is a balancing act - you have to devote just as much time to your studies and the fostering of your mind as you do to developing into an emotionally healthy, sociable human being.

These shortcoming on my part came to a forefront in my sophomore year, when my body began to rebel against the lifestyle I was leading at the time. At this point, it was not just my body and my grades that were failing me - my confidence began to slip, as well. This can have a detrimental effect on the development of one's identity. Ironically, the two classes that I was able to remain in for this school year were my physics classes. In high school I had always had difficulty with the subject, but I had no problem with the subject in my sophomore year. In fact I excelled at it. Perhaps as a result of experiencing this small triumph, I had a moment of realization that left an impact on me even to this day. No matter what the excuse, it was up to me and only me to strive for an education and if I truly wanted one then hard work and persistence would need to follow.

Thankfully, it was through becoming acquainted with my future fiancee that I was able to overcoming these failures and return to a normal course of development. This perhaps would not have been possible were it not for the time I had devoted to developing significant relationships with friends throughout socializing in my first two years of college. At the same time, my reluctance to ask her on a first date reveals the fact that I was reluctant to make the next big step in identity formation - the establishment of identity. According to Chickering and Reisser, one of the major factors in identity establishment is getting to the point where you can have a serious relationship with another human being. This is a progressive step from developing mature interpersonal relationships, a vector that is characterized by learning how to appreciate the differences in other people while simultaneously accepting the fact that you are always going to have to rely on other people to get by in life, no matter whether you like it or not. It is only when you become involved with a significant other, however, that that type of socialization is taken to the next level, in that we learn how to process the feedback that we get from the one person we have begun to care about the most. Such a relationship helps build our confidence to trust ourselves and accept what we are for who we are.

It was Kim, my future fiancee, who would help me progress from mere identity establishment to the next vector - that of developing some purpose in my life. Kim helped me realize how important it is to have a good college education. She was a coach, and a mentor and the one who pushed me hard to get back on track with college. During my four years at UConn, my wavering uncertainty and lack of confidence led me to change my major four times. I started out as a freshman with an undeclared major, changing to mathematics in the spring semester. After struggling with some of the upper level courses, I yet again decided to change my major from mathematics to physics the following fall. Excelling through the courses I quickly became overwhelmed, and soon after I began to experience a burnout. Feeling as if I had failed to succeed with math and science, I turned my attention to the other end of the spectrum of sciences. I changed my major to communicational sciences, concentrating in interpersonal communications, my junior year. It was as if a breath of fresh air had filled my lungs. The courses were enjoyable but I could not see myself pursuing a career in the field for any great length of time. Since it was my junior year and I had not yet figured out my career path, I needed… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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